Jim Henry - A lifetime's odyssey
Jim had always enjoyed jazz, (old New Orleans style, not modern) and went to many jazz clubs while he was in England, eg Ronnie Scott’s in London. But it was during his retirement when he had more time to develop the interest that it became a serious hobby and he started a collection of 78 records.
An interest becomes a serious hobby
Jim had always enjoyed jazz, (old New Orleans style, not modern) and went to many jazz clubs while he was in England, eg Ronnie Scott’s in London. But it was during his retirement when he had more time to develop the interest that it became a serious hobby and he started a collection of 78 records. When ill health interfered with his normal reading he turned more to listening and developed specialist knowledge of 1920s jazz. Names like Wingy Manone and Ma Rainey were often heard in the Henry household.
He obtained the old records from flea markets, junk shops and mail auctions.
But there was one actual record shop in Belfast where he bought all sorts of records including 78s and that was the famous Dougie Knight’s on Botanic Avenue. At one stage Dougie Knight used to host jazz and Blues sessions on the premises.
Jim was a fan of the Apex Jazz Band (still going strong) and went to many of their gigs.
In addition to attending jazz sessions here and abroad, over time, a group of fellow enthusiasts Jim included, used to gather in each other’s houses for an evening of recordings of vintage jazz and to enjoy some wine and cheese.
The house had always groaned under the weight of books but now records, especially old 78s, added to the burden. At first Jim kept his meticulously catalogued collection in a bedroom given over to the purpose but as the collection grew, and became quite valuable, the shelves grew heavier and eventually the records had to be moved downstairs to save the bedroom floor.
He’d bring the old 78s home, wash them carefully and then record them onto cassettes. Each cassette had a carefully made list of the tunes and performers. All the family received tapes from time to time with appropriate titles eg, when his first grandchild was born he sent his daughter a copy of Cakewalking Babies.
He really enjoyed the quirky titles of some of the old songs eg,
I’m Gonna Dance with the Man what brung me,
I ain’t gonna play no second fiddle.
Scrub Me Mama, eight to the bar (a boogie version of the Irish Washerwoman).
May was not so keen on jazz but went along with her husband to all the smoky nightclubs. She revealed to the children that she would count the members of the band and then resign herself to sitting through their solos.
The suddenness of his death is conveyed by the fact that during his wake, one of the jazz aficionados came to the door to collect him for a session. Jim’s son, thinking that the man was there to offer condolences showed him into the drawing room where Jim was laid out in the coffin. To say he was shocked is putting it mildly!